- The Washington Times - Friday, July 12, 2019

Turkey on Friday received its first shipment of the Russian-made S-400 missile system, ignoring repeated warnings from the Trump administration and raising the very real risk of U.S. economic sanctions.

In a brief statement, the Turkish Defense Ministry said the “transfer of the first group materials of S-400 Long Range Regional Air and Missile Defense System” began on Friday. Russian media outlets also reported that the deliveries had started, a development that marks a turning point in a years-long standoff between the U.S. and Turkey.

Washington has repeatedly warned Ankara not to follow through on the S-400 deal, reportedly worth upwards of $2 billion. Top officials in the White House, Pentagon and State Department have stressed that the U.S. could impose economic sanctions in response to the agreement.

The Trump administration maintains that the S-400 is incompatible with NATO defense systems and specifically cannot be used in the conjunction with American F-35 fighter jets. Officials have said that delivery of the S-400 missile system would mean Turkey no longer has access to the F-35 program.

Last month, the Pentagon announced that it would cut off Turkish pilots from F-35 training programs if their country goes ahead with the procurement.

More broadly, there are concerns that Turkey, a member of NATO, is deepening its ties with Russia, potentially marking a power shift in the region.

As reports surfaced earlier this week that the first delivery was imminent, administration officials reiterated that their position has not changed.

“We have said that … [Turkey] will face real and negative consequences if they accept the S-400. Those consequences include participation in the F-35 program,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus told reporters earlier this week.

But Turkey argues that President Trump has taken a very different tack in private, including during recent conversations at the Group of 20 summit in Japan. They say Mr. Trump has indicated to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that there will be no sanctions and that the U.S. wants to work with Turkey on the issue.

“The statement made by the US State Department spokesperson on July 9th regarding our procurement of the S-400 air defense system does not conform with the content and spirit of the meeting between the two presidents at the G20 Summit,” the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Wednesday. “The conditions that led Turkey to procure S400 are well known. President Trump confirmed this at the G20 Summit and made it clear that our country was not fairly treated.”

The Pentagon, White House and State Department have insisted there is absolutely no daylight between the administration’s official position and what Mr. Trump has said to Mr. Erdogan in private.

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